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Family and friends grieve loss of 14-year-old boy

Carresha Skiffer at a vigil for her son

In many ways, Elawnza Peebles was a kid who was just starting to come out of his shell.

He was described by family members as a bit of a homebody, a quiet 14-year-old who liked video games.

At a vigil Monday night, friends and family grieved for the boy, who was shot and killed Saturday night while walking home about 9:40 p.m. in Vermont Square.

Detectives are unsure if the gunman was on foot or in vehicle and are asking witnesses to come forward.

Saturday night, Porshea Merritt was standing on her porch a few houses down when her cousin told her someone had been shot. She walked outside, saw Peebles in the distance in a pool of blood and called 911.

“He was there in the fetal position,” she said.

Merritt, 25, has lived in the area her entire life. She said her street has grown quieter in the last few years: “I hear gunshots, but they’re not so close.”

Now, Merritt says, she won’t let her 4-year-old daughter play in the frontyard. She’s afraid to walk to the store.

“He could have been on my sidewalk,” she said.

Peebles, a ninth-grader at Manual Arts Senior High School, sometimes liked to take apart cellphones and other electronics. He was still afraid of the dark, said his grandmother, Brenda Chatman. 

Robert Whitman, the principal at Manual Arts, said he was shocked to hear that Peebles had been gunned down. In the three years that Whitman has been the principal of the school, this is the first student who has been killed.

Elawnza Peebles

"He wasn't a bad kid," Whitman said. "He was very respectful."

He had recently moved to the area to stay with his cousin, Lakia Jackson.

“Everything is still how he left it too,” Jackson said.

Her son, Josiah Preston, 15, had hung out with Peebles that day. The two had gone to the USC campus to play basketball. Preston said that Peebles talked about one day going to Disneyland.

"We were all going to go," he said.

On the street where he was shot, candles and a poster with Peebles’ smiling face had been tied to a tree, along with a teddy bear.

“He still had the twinkle in his eyes,” said his mother, Carresha Skiffer, “that innocence.”

She added that her only child had never even kissed a girl.

At Monday night's vigil, dozens of people stood in a tight circle holding cups with candles inside. Many cried.

Lucy Howard, a family friend, addressed the crowd.

"We don't live in Baghdad; we live on a street in Los Angeles," she said.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact criminal gang homicide detectives at (213) 485-1383.

-- Nicole Santa Cruz

Photo, top: Carresha Skiffer, middle, is comforted by family during a candlelight vigil for her son, Elawnza Peebles, 14, in the 4600 block of Kansas Avenue on Nov. 11. Credit: Gina Ferazzi, Los Angeles Times. Photo, below: Elawnza Peebles. Credit: Carresha Skiffer

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